Intent or intention is mind made active by spirit. It is not an energy but a force that directs and carries energy, and consequently the use of such always drives me into my centre and, if correctly aligned, my root. An action started without intent is weak and undirected, and can only succeed if habitual – if it slots into an established pattern of successful action. For example, for most of us breathing is unintended yet successful because we have a habit of breathing (imagine the power of that first breath!). Intending an action is basically a way of both committing to that action, and taking responsibility for the action, and for this reason most of us prefer not to use intent if we can possibly get away without it. In fact for most of us intent is half-hearted at best, and has the option of failure built in: how often do we fail to do something or fail to complete something that we tell ourselves we intend to do? In Tai Chi we endeavour to intend every action we make, and to extend the intent through to completion (no momentum – no slackness). In itself it is discipline, training the energy to follow the dictates of mind and spirit. And like everything in Tai Chi (and life) it is a stage to be passed through – on the way to emptiness – unintended pervasive heart. All saints, no matter how gentle and loving, will have had ferocious intent, because without it heart will always fall short.
The primary objective of a school, be it a childrens' school, a Tai Chi school, or whatever, is to draw the unsuspecting student into an artificial world. This world is generally a tidy and consistent gross reduction and distortion of the world at large. In fact, we could call it a systematic misrepresentation of that world. It misrepresents not so much by deceiving (although that as well), but by advocating and encouraging a studious mode of engagement that is slavish and undiscerning – essentially passive. This is why the one thing schools do not produce is independent spirits.
For most of us communication amounts to voicing what is on our minds – sharing the contents of the mind. But what if the mind is quiet? Is there then no communication? On the contrary, then there is real communication – a sharing of pure mind – because then and only then is there real togetherness (the contents of the mind constitute a barrier to such). This is a great gift because it teaches and heals – such quiet purity is infectious.
It is burden that makes us world-bound, heavy, mundane; and it is an unlightening burden that eventually kills us – breaks our back, crushes the heart, denatures the fabric. The bodhisattva/saint is essentially a free man who has chosen to burden himself with impossible task. He does this to stick around, as example, as teacher, as healer. His skill lies not in what or how he teaches, but in the facility with which he balances and regulates his innate lightness with the anchoring task of universal liberation.